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She's the investigator with an eye for truth...and a nose for trouble.
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Wild Card (also known as Zoe Busiek: Wild Card) is a Canadian-American coproduced comedy-drama series. It stars Joely Fisher (who previously played Paige in Ellen) as Zoe Busiek, a former blackjack dealer whose sister Susan is killed in a hit-and-run, leading her to return home, become the legal guardian of her nieces and nephew, and use her skills at reading people and deduction as a newly-hired insurance fraud investigator. It was broadcast in the United States on Lifetime, and on the Global Television Network in Canada from August 2003 to July 2005, lasting two seasons.

Not to be confused with the trope, the comic book miniseries, or the play-by-post roleplay.


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Tropes:

  • Absence of Evidence: It's sometimes the key factor of a case, such as in "Blind in a Bind", when one piece of evidence is a tape that Zoe realizes is missing its cover, which helps them realize it was planted; furthermore, the client's seeing-eye dog was well-behaved the night of a break-in when it usually makes a ruckus if a stranger is nearby, which clues Zoe in that the culprit was someone the dog was familiar with.
  • Abusive Parents: Melanie St. John, the titular focus of Season 2's first episode "A Felony for Melanie", is a business mogul and an old friend of Zoe's that's accused of murdering her ex-husband. She's also the actual culprit, who tries to frame her own son during the investigation because she was embarrassed by his homosexuality.
  • Accidental Murder:
    • "Mimi's Assets" involves Engineered Heroics gone wrong because the victim wasn't supposed to be where the heroics were being engineered. However, the culprit's later Alone with the Psycho moment with Zoe is completely intentional.
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    • The death by Plot Allergy in "Backstabbed" would have (and was intended to) just got the victim removed from the show for medical reasons, but turned fatal because his EpiPen was knocked behind a dresser while he slept with another contestant the night before.
  • All for Nothing: The burglary, murders, and attempted murders that occur in Season 1 Episode 13, "Bullet Proof" are all because the first victim took some incriminating photographs of an attorney. When the (second) killer confronts Zoe for presumably having key evidence, he learns the photos were already submitted to a gallery exhibition before the first burglary/murder even occurred, and ends up having some of Zoe's alcohol instead of going through with killing her.
  • Alone with the Psycho: A few episodes, such as "Mimi's Assets" and "Bullet Proof", end with Zoe going to meet someone by herself, only for Dan or another coworker to find out something incriminating the person, and Zoe having to defend herself until help arrives.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: A subplot in "Sand Trap" is Taylor Woodall, the eldest niece, seemingly slacking off on her homework until Marcos suspects she might have a learning disability. Toward the end of the episode she's been diagnosed with Ocular Motor Dysfunction.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Zoe's nephew, Clifford "Cliff" Woodall, is into gross-out humor and constantly teases Taylor, the older niece. The younger niece, Hannah, is usually just precocious, but knows enough to be a brat when she doesn't get her way, such as meddling in Taylor's Love Triangle issues in "Backstabbed" just because Taylor was so focused on her current boyfriend that she delayed making her a costume.
  • Ax-Crazy: The culprit in "Spooked"; in addition to cornering and trying to kill Zoe in the house's basement, it's learned that he murdered his own invalid brother via axe to the head when they were both kids because he was tired of him getting attention, and has been in and out of mental institutions ever since.
  • Baby Be Mine: Towards the end of "Russian Missus Gets No Kisses", after spending most of the episode following false leads with a Mail-Order Bride service, it's learned that the Russian woman who handed Zoe and Dan a baby was the baby's rightful mother. The woman, Tatyana, had originally left the baby with her sister while she returned to Russia to participate in the Olympics as a professional diver, and had to resort to stealing her back when the sister filed for custody (because she didn't approve of Tatyana choosing a chance at athletic fame over her own child), giving the child to Zoe and Dan in the hopes of getting her back from child services later.
  • Becoming the Mask: At the end of "The Cheese Stands Alone", one of the Compensated Dates decides to actually continue dating Penny because of a genuine attraction.
  • Best Friend: In Season 1 Episode 17, "Candy Land", we are introduced to Zoe's former best friend Candace "Candy" LaRue, a model who owns the ski resort where a snowboarding competition is being held (and sabotaged). Candy returns in the next episode, "Queen Bee", staying with Zoe while she auditions for a crime drama being shot in town, but a rift forms briefly between them due to Revenge by Proxy.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: In the final scenes of the Season 1 finale, "Queen Bee", Dan realizes his affections for Zoe after his Wrong-Name Outburst, and ends up having one of these with Zoe in an elevator.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • In "Backstabbed", of the two remaining contestants when Zoe goes undercover, Ginger turns out to be solely focused on fame and wealth despite the show's Manipulative Editing depicting her as a sweetheart. Meanwhile, Nicolette is nothing but kind and friendly with Zoe...and ends up not giving Zoe a dime for her help despite winning the million-dollar prize.
    • In "Queen Bea", Queenie is a beloved children's television host that Zoe idolized, and usually presents herself as sweetly as she does on television...but while investigating who's blackmailing Queenie, Zoe learns that her "Frannie Frog" puppet was inspired by a rival television host, who Queenie at one point yells "Up yours!" to.
    • In "Tick Tock, Writer's Block", Zoe tries to deal with Hannah avoiding her Firefly Scouts meetings by going directly to the Den Mother that's supposedly been antagonizing her, and then tries to tell Hannah that she was overreacting and the woman doesn't actually hate her. Towards the end of the episode, Zoe's convinced to set up an Engineered Public Confession and records the woman calling Hannah stupid to her face, deciding afterwards that one of the lessons she's learned is to always trust her children.
  • Blackmail: Zoe learns that her job includes extortion protection in Season 1 Episode 18, "Queen Bee", when children's TV host Queenie needs their help preventing some nude photos of her from her youth from being released by a blackmailer.
  • Bluff the Imposter: In "The Learning Curve," when the team realizes "Marilyn" is actually her sister, they press her on questions like why she no longer wears her reading glasses or takes her blood pressure medication. Zoe asks her big one: "Who is Dr. Anton Arcane?" with "Marilyn" having no idea what she's talking about. As Zoe explains, anyone who owns an extensive and valuable comic book collection would recognize the name of the main villain of Swamp Thing.
  • Call-Back:
    • The events of "Backstabbed" come back to bite Zoe in the next episode, "Auntie Venom", as her cover identity was blown on live television (and in the tabloids) in the former, and a travel writer identifies her when Zoe's undercover again in the latter (and her failure to keep the secret leads to someone else Saying Too Much).
    • "Backstabbed" also gets referenced in "A Felony for Melanie", as does the ending of "Queen Bee", when Dan makes out with Zoe to avoid letting a suspect realize they're being tracked, and Zoe takes note of how weird it is that they've now kissed three times but Dan's refusing to acknowledge the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them.
  • Canine Companion: Jack Osbourne's seeing-eye dog Sprinkles in "Blind in a Bind" is incredibly loyal and well-trained, to the point that he helps his owner cheat at miniature golf by moving the ball into the hole after he hits it (and removing Dan's from the hole when he takes a shot of his own).
  • Cassandra Truth: In "Russian Missus Gets No Kisses", Taylor initially doesn't believe Zoe when she explains why she was late coming home (a woman randomly gave her a baby and then jumped off a bridge).
  • Catchphrase: The blackmailer in "Queen Bee" threatens to leak Queenie's photos if she continues ending her shows with "You are wonderful, and I'm glad that you're my friend," her sign-off for the past twenty years, solely to cause her grief.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: "Bullet Proof" starts with a man who's just been acquitted of murder (despite all the evidence against him) visiting the insurance office. At the end of the episode, the crime committed by an attorney that led to all the burglary/murder was colluding with that man to get him wrongfully acquitted.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: A subplot in Season 1 Episode 11, "Sand Trap", is Sophia dealing with her recent promotion by sneaking off during work hours to smoke. In the end, Zoe find out (by smelling the smoke on her clothes when leaning in for a hug) and forces her to quit immediately before it results in health issues.
  • Clear Their Name: A subplot in "Dead Again" is Dan trying to prove that a man jailed for embezzling is actually innocent, and the blame falls solely on the man Faking the Dead (who's now actually dead) that the main plot is investigating.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Season 1 Episode 4, "Hell Week", ends with the deadbeat father of Zoe's nieces and nephew showing up, which plays a major role in the following episode.
    • Season 1 Episode 18, which is also the Season 1 finale, "Queen Bee", ends with Marcos asking Zoe to marry him, with no knowledge that Zoe and Dan had The Big Damn Kiss in a scene immediately before.
  • Closed Circle: In Season 2 Episode 14, "See Ya Later, Investigator", a bereaving mother has accused the insurance office of blackmailing her by withholding evidence that could free her wrongly imprisoned son, and Zoe's boss refuses to let anyone leave until the mystery is solved. The only other location seen in the episode is Zoe's house, to show how her nieces and nephew are taking care of themselves.
  • Compensated Dating: Season 1 Episode 7, "The Cheese Stands Alone", has multiple businesses (including a cheesery) file for compensation after an electrical surge in their building. One of these is a dating service that lost their financial data, but it turns out they've been paying men to "match" with female users, and the claim is denied due to false pretenses.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Towards the end of "Candy Land", Zoe is upset that they've done enough to make an accurate insurance claim but the person she knows is the culprit is going to get off due to lack of evidence. Before they go, her nephew Cliff wants to throw a few final snowballs outside, but has misplaced his gloves; Zoe's friend Candy suggests that he goes to Lost & Found and, if his gloves aren't there, merely claim someone else's pair as his own and return them later. After Cliff has his fun, he realizes that the gloves he borrowed have a weird stain in them; they just so happen to be the gloves the culprit used while committing their crime, with enough uncompromosied trace evidence to file a police report.
  • Crappy Holidays: One of the flashbacks in "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister" depicts the last Thanksgiving Zoe and Susan had together. In short order, Zoe learns that Susan's husband has filed for divorce and that Susan resents Zoe for planning to work in Vegas while she's been the dutiful daughter that takes care of their now-invalid father (and is still The Unfavorite in her father's eyes despite that)...and then when Zoe's about to storm out of the house in a huff, she notices their father has just passed away in front of the television.
  • Dead Person Conversation: "A Whisper from Zoe's Sister" has Zoe, one the two-year anniversary of her sister's Plot-Triggering Death, envisioning her sister Susan's spirit throughout the episode and having full conversations with her. When M notes how Zoe's speaking to nobody and Zoe explains herself, M mentions that she's experienced the same thing with her former husband, who was a penny-pincher that bothers her whenever she goes shopping for luxuries.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Season 1 Episode 2, "The Learning Curve", focuses on Zoe investigating her first fraud assignment when the house of a community activist, Marilyn Lee, burns down and takes Marilyn's sister's life alongside many of her possessions. However, Marilyn has adapted far too well to moving into her sister's house, doesn't know the true value of what she's claiming insurance for, and has completely forgotten about her medical prescriptions, leading Zoe to deduce that the sister stole Marilyn's identity and committed arson to make Marilyn's body unrecognizable.
  • Death by Irony: In "Auntie Venom", the lounge singer, who died because of a smuggled snake's bite, was in cahoots with the cruise ship captain to bring it to an Evil Poacher.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • In "Bullet Proof", the homicide detective murdered the burglar and attempts to murder Zoe in order to try and recover photographs stolen from the burglar's first victim (and then presumably left with Zoe when the hospital assumed the victim's bag was hers), because one of the city's leading attorneys was caught committing a crime in one of them. However, he can't go through with the latter murder (and ends up just drinking some of Zoe's alcohol) because Dan calls to state he just learned that the photos were submitted to a gallery exhibition, and he's made aware that he can't possibly keep things quiet any longer.
    • In "Bada Bing, Bada Busiek", there's a detective investigating Angelo's mafia and a 5-year-old bank robbery at the same time Dan and Zoe are trying to find Angelo's missing daughter. It all intersects at the end, when the detective murders one robber for one key to the money, trying to frame Angelo for it, and was hooking up with Angelo's daughter in order to get the other key.
  • Dirty Harriet: A downplayed example in Season 1 Episode 9, "Mimi's Assets", where the main plot centers around Zoe working as a bartender (not a performer) in a strip club in order to investigate whether or not a life-insured dancer's death was accidental, but her work outfit still shows a decent bit of cleavage and leg.
  • Disability Superpower: Defied in "Blind in a Bind"; when blind Shock Jock Jake Osbourne identified the ingredients in a take-out pasta meal by taste, Zoe asks if his sense of taste was heightened due to being blind, and Jake has a mild rant about how people want to see him as "special" so they don't feel awkward and that he'd prefer their pity.
  • Disabled Snarker: "Blind in a Bind" is all about a blind Shock Jock named Jake Osbourne whose (insured) life is in danger, and he takes as many opportunities as he can to snark about it; for example, when Zoe (an avid listener) is startled upon first meeting him and seeing his condition, he asks if she expected someone taller and claims the radio adds six inches. Later, after a meal at Zoe's house, he claims that he'll get the car for the drive back to his home right before intentionally walking into a door.
  • The Don: "Bada Bing, Bada Buziek" focuses on Zoe and Dan getting roped into finding the estranged daughter of Angelo, a Mafia don (who doesn't actually want them interfering in "family" business, but is forced into accepting outside help by his wife).
  • Driving Test: One of the subplots of "Dead Again" has Zoe's eldest niece Taylor eager to practice driving the family car to get her license, to the point that she ends up taking the car without permission and forgets to refill the gas tank, nearly sabotaging Zoe's work evaluation when she runs late as a result. Towards the end, she conveniently overhears Zoe confessing to Marcos that Zoe's concerned that she'll end up in a car accident like her mother, causing Taylor to apologize and making Zoe more willing to spend time helping her practice.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Season 1 Episode 14, "Backstabbed", has Zoe go undercover as a contestant on the titular fake reality show after one of the stars dies via an allergic reaction from tampered food, as the caterer is insured. Along the way, she befriends the girl that ends up winning the million-dollar prize, who shows her appreciation in the episode's final scene by visiting her house and directly gifting her...a thank-you note, to Zoe's exasperation.
  • Easy Amnesia:
    • When the sorority pledge awakens from her lion attack-induced coma in "Hell Week", she has retrograde amnesia and is unable to confirm that her actions were due to her sorority's initiation.
    • Season 2 Episode 8, "Die, Die, Who Am I?", focuses on Zoe taking a pro-bono case for an amnesiac man trying to put his life back together while he's being stalked by a mysterious assailant. It's eventually revealed that said amnesia was caused by falling down some stairs during a struggle with said assailant.
  • Engineered Public Confession: A subplot in "Tick Tock, Writer's Block" is Zoe's youngest niece Hannah faking sick to get out of attending her Firefly Scouts meeting; when Zoe finds out, she claims it's because the Den Mother is incredibly cruel to her, but Zoe doesn't believe her. Towards the climax, however, Zoe hides inside a closet with a video camera when the Den Mother comes to the house to antagonize Hannah for skipping so many meetings (and for having a "stupid" laugh), announcing that she plans to show the recording to the other mothers.
  • Engineered Heroics: In the climax of "Mimi's Assets", it turns out that the club's bouncer has been setting up accidents in order to save the strippers and get a reputation as their hero, only for his latest scheme to unintentionally result in a dancer's death.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In "A Felony for Melanie", shortly after being mistaken for a new assistant by Zoe, M makes a dramatic announcement that she now owns the entire insurance agency, will fire anyone that asks what "M" stands for, and takes Zoe's office for herself.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • "Con Artistry" has Taylor try and fail to alter her grade on a report, and Hannah states it would've been easier if she had an F and added a line to change it to an A. This helps Zoe with her current case, involving returning stolen art to its rightful owners, by realizing that the art they recovered is actually a forgery because of a missing line in the author's signature, which had been obscured by the frame the original was in.
    • "Sand Trap" is solved because, while undercover as a client, Zoe sneaked home some mini-shampoos from the spa in a fast-food restaurant take-out bag that one of the staff members brought her when she begged for food that wasn't made of wheat grass. This causes Dan to remember that the victim had received a call from a payphone near that restaurant, leading them to track down that staff member (who is also the only employee that lives close to the restaurant) and get her to fully confess her role in the case (she had tried to reveal the spa's illegal actions to the victim, but she ended up silenced and the victim killed because He Knows Too Much).
    • "Queen Bee" is solved because Hannah got a pressed penny as a souvenir after visiting a museum, which makes Zoe remember that one of Queenie's coworkers ("Friendly Fred", who was fired for being "too friendly" with women) used to give people pressed pennies as souvenirs, and that Queenie's assistant had one as part of a charm bracelet; it turns out that the assistant is Fred's daughter, who had seen her father's life rapidly deteriorate after being fired.
    • "Bada Bing, Bada Busiek" has a double in quick succession. Struggling from the weight while attempting to refill a water cooler at the insurance office, Zoe realizes that a recording of a pair of bank robbers with duffle bags didn't show them struggling with the weight of the cash, which means they didn't actually carry it out of the bank they robbed. And a religious pamphlet left on a car windshield has Zoe realize that a crucifix, which had been transferred from one of the robbers to mob boss Angelo's estranged daughter (who had recently been targeted by the other robber), is the most likely hiding spot of the key to the bank safe deposit box where the money was actually left.
  • Evil Poacher: In "Auntie Venom", it's revealed that one of these is the reason why venomous snakes (and various less-deadly animals) were being smuggled aboard a cruise ship.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: In "Dead Again", Taylor is grounded for taking the family car without permission. She sneaks out just as Zoe is expressing her concerns to Marcos on the front porch, which Taylor overhears, causing a change of heart and her immediately sneaking back into the house.
  • Exact Words:
    • In "Hell Week", Zoe uses the phrase "what if I told you" when referring to an incriminating guitar pick to get the culprit to panic, without actually having said pick.
    • In "Dearly Beloved", Zoe shows the culprit a long hair that she says she found at the scene of the crime to provoke a confession, without revealing that it's Zoe's hair.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Season 1 Episode 6, "Dead Again", has Zoe and Dan investigate the past of a recently-deceased man who was already declared dead, and had a life insurance payout, three years ago. After investigating, it turns out he was an embezzler, and (with some help) faked a boating accident.
    • The climax of "No Bull" reveals that the neighbor that "shot" the insured bull was jealous, and had just swapped it with one of his own bulls that had recently been put down in order to keep it for himself.
  • False Friend: The titular Melanie from "A Felony for Melanie" is an old friend of Zoe's, specifically her former night boss when she worked in Vegas. However, Melanie cares more about her business than other people; in addition to being the actual culprit of the case, Zoe realizes that the charm bracelet she's wearing, which was supposed to be a match to hers and a memento of their history together, is actually a brand-new replacement (having gotten rid of the original long ago) that Melanie bought specifically to gain Zoe's trust and make her believe Melanie's claims of innocence.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in "Tick Tock, Writer's Block", Myra the mystery writer states that the book she's currently working on will include a Locked Room Mystery; a man enters an elevator, is the only passenger, and is found dead on the bottom floor, with no traces of poison in his system. Myra claims she's still working on the ending. Towards the end of the episode, Myra's found dead in an elevator, and Zoe realizes she had been planning her own death.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Zoe had a rather wild life before settling into her current situation, which Taylor frequently tries to use as leverage to get away with her own rebellious acts.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: A variant in "Tick Tock, Writer's Block", in which Hannah tries telling Zoe that the Den Mother is why she's been skipping Firefly Scout meetings.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • The culprit of "Con Artistry" is ultimately revealed to be an art appraiser, who was tired of having to deal with art he could never keep and thus tried to replace a painting with a forgery he made.
    • Season 1 Episode 5, "Dearly Beloved", has its central plot being who sabotaged a $300,000 garden wedding. In the end, it's revealed to be the bridesmaid, who had dated the groom before he left her for her best friend the bride.
  • Groin Attack: After ending up Alone with the Psycho in "Mimi's Assets", Zoe manages to escape by inflicting one of these, and later tells Dan that this is why she enjoys wearing heels.
  • Halloween Episode: "Spooked" is set on Halloween, and has Zoe's family celebrating the holiday while the main case is investigating an old house that appears to have been vandalized by a ghost.
  • Handicapped Badass: In the climax of "Blind in a Bind", despite being blind, Jake manages to hold off a direct attack on his life long enough for Zoe and Dan to arrive at his home and knock out the intruder.
  • Hanging by the Fingers: During the investigation in "A Felony for Melanie", Zoe goes onto a building's roof, and when Dan joins her, he accidentally hits a switch that causes a billboard to swing on an axis and nearly knock her off. She grabs onto it, and is hanging by her fingers while Dan shimmies over and offers his hand, but he's seconds too late, causing Zoe to fall...about two feet onto the roof of a neighboring building, realizing in the process that this was likely the culprit's escape route.
  • Happily Adopted: Although initially reluctant to have their aunt become their guardian after their mother passes, Zoe's nieces and nephew quickly warm up to her.
  • Harmful Healing: "Sand Trap" focuses on the mysterious death of a spa patient that died of overdosing on sleeping pills. It turns out the spa was secretly cutting costs on "mud bath" treatments by substituting in local river mud that's accidentally been poisoned by pesticides from nearby farmland, and the Corrupt Corporate Executive in charge of the spa was not only issuing threats if the information leaked, he force-fed the victim the pills.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • When Alone with the Psycho at the end of "Mimi's Assets", the psycho tries to kill Zoe to keep his Engineered Heroics secret, planning to state to others that he had tried but failed to save her life...only for Zoe to inflict a Groin Attack and easily escape.
    • The victim of "Sand Trap" was force-fed the sleeping pills that killed him, because he had been poisoned by the spa's mud treatments and was going to make the case public.
    • The reason for the murders in "Bullet Proof", as the first victim was killed for taking photographs of a lawyer committing a violation, the burglar that killed her (on request from the lawyer, who had defended him in the past) was killed by a detective for knowing about the photos, and the detective almost did the same to Zoe when he thought the photos were accidentally left with her.
  • How We Got Here:
    • The first Season's Title Sequence is Zoe summarizing the first episode, of how she came to town to solve her sister's Plot-Triggering Death, got a job as an insurance investigator, and now takes care of her sister's kids, explaining the show's set-up to anyone new to the series.
    • The Season 2 finale, "Zoe's Phony Matrimony", starts with Zoe at a wedding altar with Dan. Zoe then narrates a scene from three weeks earlier depicting a wedding planner being murdered, and the majority of the episode is how Zoe and Dan decided to pose as an engaged couple in order to investigate the key suspects. In the final scene of the episode, realizing she and Dan actually got married in the process, she starts to do this in-universe.
  • I Got a Rock: In "Spooked", Hannah complains that one of the houses she's trick-or-treated at has been giving all of the kids toothbrushes.
  • Immoral Journalist: Season 2 Episode 7, "Slam Dunk Funk", has the insurance company hired to prove the innocent of a sports agent's client in a murder investigation because the agent had met Zoe and Dan shortly before the murder, while an entertainment reporter named Javier is constantly shadowing them and intruding on crime scenes in order to get footage. In the end, it turns out that Javier's the actual murderer, who had been working together with the victim to engineer blackmail on the athlete, killed her when things went awry, and then framed the athlete in order to engineer a scoop while diverting blame from himself.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: In "Backstabbed", one of the contestants on the titular show, Ginger, presents herself as sensitive and kind when the cameras are filming and embodies this trope when they're not.
  • Infraction Distraction: Season 2 Episode 6, "Wham Bam, Thank You Dan", features Zoe and Dan investigating a string of jewelry thefts. They manage to prevent the final heist, but it seems like a female thief escaped...until they discover that the whole thing was a cover to steal some software being developed in the same building that the jewels were kept in, and they intercept the thief at the airport after learning where the software was supposed to be sent.
  • Inheritance Murder: "Tick Tock, Writer's Block" focuses on a family, primarily a decently-famous female mystery writer, who get caught up in one of these; first an amoral Corrupt Corporate Executive appears to have an uncharacteristic change of heart and commits suicide, followed by his adrenaline and popularity-loving son falling off of a building with no witnesses. The final murder (of the mystery writer) turns out to be a suicide in order to frame a relative and have her daughter (who was written out of the executive's will for being an environmental activist) gain the inheritance, but suspecting that Zoe and the agency will crack the case before it's too late, she also writes a manuscript based on the events (including Zoe and Dan's investigation) and leaves a video will to her daughter telling her to publish it if she ever needs the money.
  • Initiation Ceremony: One goes horribly wrong in "Hell Week", with the episode's case revolving around a sorority pledge who broke into a zoo, fell into a lion's den, and fell comatose. The twist is that it went wrong due to the pledge's boyfriend, who is really her ex-boyfriend that felt jilted and pushed her in, with the fact that she's forgotten breaking up with him a bonus.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Ryder is a shy, brooding teenager that starts dating Taylor while she's moving on from Julian, but feels pressured due to Julian living next door to her and still visiting on a regular basis. It comes to a head in "Auntie Venom", in which Julian is asked to play a victim in an amateur horror movie Ryder's making, and they end up tussling when Ryder catches him kissing Taylor unscripted.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In "See Ya Later, Investigator", M holds the entire office hostage with a gun in order to find out which of her employees is blackmailing a mother whose son is facing imprisonment. In the episode's climax, when the traitor is revealed, he steals the gun and tries to take Zoe as a hostage, only for M to reveal she never actually loaded it and didn't intend to use it as more than intimidation.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: When the burglar that shot Zoe in "Bullet Proof" ends up killed, Dan tries to investigate, but he's still just a fraud investigator and ends up butting heads with a homicide detective, who was also investigating the initial victim's death and turns out to be the burglar's killer.
  • Know When to Fold Them: At the end of "Bullet Proof," Zoe is confronted by a killer out for evidence he thinks she has. When Zoe breaks it to him said evidence is now literally hanging in an art gallery, the man mulls it over, then asks if Zoe has anything to drink. He openly asks if Zoe expects him to "kill you? Then your partner, then what, your boss, anyone else who knows or will find out sooner or later? It's over." He just sits there with a glass of Scotch until the cops arrive to arrest him.
  • The Last DJ: Blind Shock Jock Jake Osbourne in "Blind in a Bind", who believes that a single person with determination has the power to change the world no matter what they're up against. He is supposedly being harassed and his life in danger because his most recent target was a Corrupt Corporate Executive, and although he becomes disheartened after the tapes containing his life's work are demagnetized and his station manager puts his show on hiatus, Zoe quickly picks him back up.
  • Lecherous Stepparent: In "A Felony for Melanie", it's a mutual attraction, but also still a weird twist that Melanie's now-dead ex-husband was in a secret homosexual relationship with her adult-age son from a different marriage.
  • Love Triangle:
    • In the first season, the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Zoe and Dan is further complicated by Marcos, who's had a crush on Zoe since they attended high school together and is now Cliff's gym teacher. This is no longer an issue in the second season, due to Marcos' departure (and an Offscreen Breakup briefly mentioned during Season 2's first episode). The final two episodes of the first season also have Candy as another love interest for Dan, only for a Wrong-Name Outburst to put a quick end to it.
    • The first season also has a reoccurring subplot of Taylor trying to deal with her feelings for a boy named Julian that lives next door, who starts out attracted to her best friend Karla before reciprocating Taylor's affections, at which point Taylor doesn't want him breaking Karla's heart just so she can be with him. She later gets a boyfriend of her own, Ryder, but he often feels insecure with Julian so close, especially after Julian and Karla break up for other reasons; additionally, Ryder is Put on a Bus at the end of the season.
    • The motive for ruining the wedding in "Dearly Beloved" is because the bridesmaid was on the losing corner of one.
    • The death of a contestant in "Backstabbed" turns out to be because he was dating one of the producers and two-timed her with one of the other contestants.
    • "See Ya Later, Investigator" has one of the potentially traitorous coworkers flirt with Zoe in the hopes that she'll join him and another female coworker he's flirted with in starting their own agency. The other coworker is rather miffed when learning about this (though not as much as learning that Zoe was offered double her current salary when she was just promised a 25% raise).
  • Mail-Order Bride: The focus of the episode "Russian Missus Gets No Kisses" is Zoe and Dan investigating one of these, with the addition of a "babies for sale" scheme on the side, after a Russian woman randomly hands them a baby. In the end, it turns out to all be a Red Herring with the reveal that it's actually a case of Baby Be Mine.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Zoe and Dan work as insurance fraud investigators, yet many of their cases end up uncovering major crimes, such as one life-insured dancer's seemingly-accidental death in "Mimi's Assets" uncovering years of dangerous Engineered Heroics by her unintended murderer, or the crashing of an insured used car in "Black Sheep" uncovering a Black Widow.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When M first appears in "A Felony for Melanie", she tries to introduce herself as "the new girl" in the insurance agency while Zoe and Melanie are talking. They mistake her for an assistant and ask her to fetch them some coffee, but as soon as Melanie leaves, she makes a more dramatic announcement to the whole room that she's a freelance businesswoman and former cop that's bought the business and is now the agency's new manager.
  • The Mole: In multiple episodes ("Mimi's Assets", "Backstabbed", "Auntie Venom", etc.), Zoe has to go undercover as part of an organization in order to make sure they're not making a fraudulent insurance claim.
  • Monochrome Past: Whenever Zoe has a flashback of growing up with her sister in "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister", it's in sepia tones.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: An oddly not-actually-murderous example in "Dead Again", as one of the main reasons Gordon helped his friend fake his death was so Gordon could hook up with his "widow".
  • Never Heard That One Before: In "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister" Dan meets a woman named Macy Grace, and he remarks how her name sounds similar to the song "Amazing Grace". She replies with a deadpan "Wow, you're the first person that's ever noticed that."
  • No Medication for Me: Season 1 Episode 12, "Black Sheep", has members of the "New Shepherd" religious movement refuse medical treatment due to their beliefs. Zoe and Dan are investigating a member that crashed his used car into his own house during a blackout caused by untreated diabetes. It only gets more complicated when it turns out his wife is a Black Widow whose previous husbands, also New Shepherds, were never autopsied.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "Auntie Venom", while investigating an animal handler on the cruise ship to see if he's responsible for the venomous snake, he asks Zoe if she'd like to handle one of his animals; when Dan walks by his room, he overhears her talking about how his snake is silky yet smooth, and interrupts them with the assumption that they're hooking up.
  • Office Romance: Zoe's major love interest is a coworker at the insurance agency she works for.
  • Offscreen Breakup: A brief scene in the first episode of Season 2 has Zoe and Dan argue over whether the Cliffhanger of the Season 1 finale led to Marcos breaking up with Zoe on the night he proposed because of her reaction, or if Zoe broke up with him; the actual event is never shown, and either way, Marcos has been Put on a Bus and isn't seen for the rest of the series.
  • One-Letter Name: Zoe and Dan's new boss in Season 2, Matilda Pearl McGuire, prefers to just be referred to as "M".
  • Only a Flesh Wound: "Bullet Proof" has Zoe help a woman carry her groceries up to her apartment, only for both of them to end up shot by a burglar. She's immediately rushed to a hospital and has to spend the night there, but since the bullet had to go through the grocery bags, it's deflected enough to avoid fatal penetration and she goes to investigate the case the very next day despite her coworkers' requests that she rest and recover.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In "Tick Tock, Writer's Block", one of the key suspects in the case is a mystery writer named Myra that formerly worked as a criminal investigator. Towards the conclusion, Myra calls Zoe for help while in hysterics, and is found murdered soon after with the next-in-line for her cousin's disputed will the prime suspect; Zoe realizing that Myra called her first instead of the police, or even keeping her wits after years of police experience, tips Zoe off that she had intentionally set up the scene to get the inheritor arrested and have the inheritance passed down to her own daughter, who was written out of the original will.
  • Out with a Bang: The investigation into a stripper's cause of death in "Mimi's Assets" becomes more complicated when Zoe uncovers that a senator died in the club's "VIP" room, with the dead dancer being the last person he saw, and the club's owner is covering it all up to preserve his family's reputation.
  • Painful Rhyme: The titles of multiple Season 2 episodes are these, such as "A Felony for Melanie", "Russian Missus Gets No Kisses", and "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister".
  • Parental Abandonment: In addition to Zoe's nephew and nieces losing their mother in the pilot, the fifth episode of season 1, "Dearly Beloved", reveals that their father is a deadbeat that abandoned the family, but has returned to pay respects and try to make amends. Zoe considers signing over legal guardianship to him while he's back, only for him to skip town again by the end of the episode.
  • Plot Allergy: The victim of "Backstabbed" dies because of a peanut allergy (and missing EpiPen) while in the middle of a spicy chili-eating challenge for the Show Within a Show.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The entire series would never have occurred if Zoe's sister was not killed in a hit-and-run.
  • Popularity Power: In the climax of "Backstabbed", Zoe's cover as "Chloe" is blown, but she's allowed to come back onto the show and reveal who murdered a contestant because her on-air reveal brought in huge ratings.
  • Precocious Crush: A subplot in "Bada Bing, Bada Busiek" is Cliff starting to fail in a class at the same time Zoe is dealing with a sick Taylor and Hannah, leading Dan to step in and help out. It turns out that the instructor in that class is a Hot Teacher, who Dan briefly flirts with while trying to get her side of the story, and Cliff's problem is unreciprocated affection towards her.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Happens literally to Ryder at the end of Season 1, when his family moves away to Columbus, and Taylor considers following him via bus; Zoe convinces Taylor to let Zoe give her a lift so she can be sure Taylor stays safe, only for them to learn that Ryder already started dating a local ex-girlfriend because he thought their relationship was over.
    • Marcos Morales and Sophia Mason leave at the start of the show's second season, with the latter (who had been promoted to Zoe's boss) being replaced by M. Pearl McGuire.
  • Really Gets Around: One of the key suspects in Season 1 Episode 16, "Block Party", is the block's handyman Trey; in addition to having access to all of the houses that have been burgled recently, it turns out he's fooled around with multiple women there, including a recent murder victim.
  • Reformed Criminal:
    • Dan Lennox, one of Zoe's coworkers, was a former Con Artist who ended up in major debt and going straight after a scam gone wrong. His skill at reading people has helped in his new line of work.
    • "Con Artistry" features one of Dan's ex-girlfriends, an art forger that has become a legitimate art dealer.
  • Revenge by Proxy: In "Queen Bea", Candy's choreographer fires her just because her Best Friend Zoe broke his arm (as he was a suspect in a previous episode). He changes his mind when Zoe convinces him that a big-name production is going to scoop Candy up if he terminates her current contract.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Zoe outright states that M is sassy after her Establishing Character Moment in "A Felony for Melanie".
  • Saying Too Much:
    • "Auntie Venom" has the travel writer confronted when Dan ends up getting bit by another venomous snake, since only she knew that he and Zoe were on the case. When she admits to Zoe and Sophia that she accidentally blabbed to the ship's captain but they already knew, Sophia states that this goes against what the ship's staff had informed them earlier, and they end up trailing that other person and discovering their crimes.
    • "See Ya Later, Investigator" ends with the blackmailing traitor in the insurance office being outed due to his knowledge of an inscription on the bottom of a trophy in a locked display case, and said case containing the evidence that proves the mother's son innocent (a bloodstained trophy).
  • Scenery Censor: In "Backstabbed", Sophia decides that Zoe needs to go undercover as a contestant named "Chloe" to investigate the case, filming & submitting an audition tape in which "Chloe" is baking without clothes but has her bits obscured by bread and other food items.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Season 1 Episode 10, "Spooked", has a vandalized house suspected of being haunted. It turns out to be a hoax perpetuated by a neighbor to hide the fact that he murdered his brother and hid the body in the property, which was about to be renovated if he didn't scare the current owners out.
  • Secretly Dying: Towards the end of "Tick Tock, Writer's Block", it turns out that mystery novelist Myra didn't just install an elevator in her own house because of a treadmill injury; she was secretly ill and going to die before her relatives died of natural causes, necessitating the Inheritance Murders of her corrupt and egotistical relatives to make sure her activist daughter would inherit the family fortune.
  • Shock Jock: Jake Osbourne from "Blind in a Bind" is one of these, as his past topics of discussion included who shot JFK and the current state of the Soviet Union.
  • Shotgun Wedding: One of Zoe's flashbacks in "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister" has Zoe, on the eve of her sister's wedding, realize that her sister's wedding dress is a tad too tight around her. The sister admits to being pregnant and, even if she doesn't truly love her husband-to-be, wants her children to be raised with both parents...which the audience already knows won't come to pass.
  • Show Within a Show: The episode "Backstabbed" is about a supposed murder on the titular reality show, which is similar to Big Brother but with Fear Factor challenges and a focus on the contestants backstabbing each other as they compete for a million-dollar prize.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Inverted in the climax of "Black Sheep", which occurs in a hospital room after the Black Widow's secretly-diabetic husband is admitted; she needs to save his life with an Insulin injection because she's suspected for trying to kill him, but it turns out to be a sting by Zoe, Dan, and the husband, because the husband's religion believes in No Medication for Me and they need to prove she's not as "faithful" as him.
  • Sick Episode: A subplot in "Dead Again" is workaholic Sophia Mason falling ill and her fiancé struggling to keep her in bed. By the end, the fiancé is now ill, with Sophia recovered and gleefully throwing back his statements to stay in bed while she prepares to leave for work.
  • Significant Anagram: In "Spooked", the jumble of letters suspected to have been left by a ghost on a house's walls is rearranged to form the name "Henderson", who was a child from decades ago that went missing and was never seen again. It's revealed this is because he was murdered by his own brother, who's responsible for the letters as part of his "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • Sinister Minister: The murderous, jewel-stealing culprit of the Season 2 finale, "Zoe's Phony Matrimony", is (as stated by Zoe's opening narration) the minister that's officiating Zoe and Dan's wedding.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Season 1 Episode 15, "Auntie Venom", is about a cruise ship being liable for a venomous snake sneaking aboard and killing a lounge singer, only for it to turn out that the victim and the ship's captain intentionally smuggled the snake, among other animals, to deliver to an Evil Poacher.
  • Spotting the Thread: Zoe is an expert at this. She proves it in the second episode when she figures out a woman is posing as her dead sister, pointing out, among other things, that the woman knows way too much about her sister's home down to where to find a pen to how her sister's clothes fit her perfectly to the fact the dog acts like it's known this "new" owner for years.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: The actual insurance case in "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister" is a fertility clinic that has some embryos from high-profile donors stolen during a breaking-and-entering. It eventually turns out that, while there was a legitimate cash theft, the embryos were taken by the secretary, who desperately wanted to be a mother but had such low self-esteem that she couldn't envision herself getting a boyfriend and becoming pregnant the natural way, and used the theft as the opportunity to mask her own crime.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Zoe, who takes care of her nephew and nieces all by herself after becoming their legal guardian, though she sometimes receives a bit of assistance from Dan and her other coworkers. Zoe's sister was also this, as learned in "Dearly Beloved" when it's shown that the father of her children is a deadbeat.
  • Suicide by Assassin: The twist towards the end of "Die, Die, Who Am I?", is that the amnesiac the episode focuses on couldn't afford surgery to remove a fatal brain tumor, and hired someone to make his death look like an accident so that at least his life insurance could go to a beloved...before having second thoughts, struggling against the hitman, getting amnesia due to a wound, and forgetting all about it.
  • Taking You with Me: In "A Whisper From Zoe's Sister", once the embryo thief is caught, they threaten the doctor in charge of the fertility clinic by stating they'll disclose his own illicit acts (namely some offshore bank accounts) if they're sent to jail. The doctor decides not to press charges.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Season 1 Episode 8, "No Bull", has Zoe and Dan travel to the country to investigate an insured bull that apparently broke through a fence and was shot by a neighbor despite said bull not grazing or pooping at any point between his starting point and final destination. While there, they have to spend the night in a motel room with one Queen-sized bed; however, they decide to just flip a coin for it, with Dan getting the mattress and Zoe getting the box-spring.
  • Theme Tune: Season 1 has a wordless opening song by Amy Sky play as Zoe explains the show's premise. Season 2 replaces it, and Zoe's narration, with "I Believe In Me" by Cherie.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: In "Hell Week", Dan's attempts at firing Penny keep going wrong, with her confident that she's a valued employee while also using pity such as mentioning her recently-hospitalized grandmother. She ends up voluntarily quitting in the end, after being offered a better-paying job elsewhere.
  • Token Black Friend: Sophia and her Season 2 replacement M are the only black people in the main cast, and they both get along quite well with Zoe.
  • Undercover as Lovers:
    • In "Backstabbed", Dan tries to relay some information to Zoe, who's undercover on the titular Show Within a Show as "Chloe"; when a camera crew catches them together, Zoe pulls Dan in for a kiss and obscures his face from the camera, making it look like the reason she snuck away from the set was for a hook-up despite contestants being forbidden from outside contact until they're disqualified.
    • In the Season 2 finale, "Zoe's Phony Matrimony", detective Leo's sister is murdered. As she was a wedding planner, Zoe and Dan pose as an engaged couple in order to investigate the key suspects. By the episode's end, they're officially married.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Nearly every episode focuses some time to the developing relationship between Zoe and Dan Lennox, a handsome ex-con and her coworker at the insurance company.
  • Unwanted Assistance: A sublot in "Hell Week" is Dan hiring a personal assistant named Penny that ends up causing nothing but frustration when she tries to be proactive in fulfilling his needs, such as by personally dealing with a caller instead of simply taking a message, and locking things in a safe that needs a replacement key. She makes a reappearance in "The Cheese Stands Alone", where it's indicated that quirks like this is also why she's resorted to a dating service to find love.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: At the end of the Season 1 Finale, when Zoe is dining with Marcos, she takes a huge gulp of wine to deal with the fact that she had The Big Damn Kiss with Dan just a short while ago...and almost chokes on the engagement ring that Marcos hid in her glass.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: Candy gets Zoe's blessing to court Dan in "Candy Land", and they're about to actually hook up in "Queen Bee", until Dan says "C'mon, Zoe, let's take it to the bedroom".
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